Behind Australian post tops Facebook’s most viewed pages
Jenny Leong, State MP for the NSW Greens, featured in an episode of the documentary on anti-Asian racism. She says her team was surprised when LadBible contacted them, thinking she was portrayed as an “angry feminist”, but realized the project was well-meaning when she saw the other activist groups and people involved.
Leong is aware of his limitations. “It’s their version of big business putting something in their annual report saying that all of their staff volunteered at a soup kitchen,” she says.
But Leong also praises the series for being well done and delivering on its promise to spread the message of activists. “Just because you’re not in a highly politically charged space, like Ladbible’s audience, doesn’t mean you can’t grasp the concept of these things,” Leong says. “It can be very powerful to give a language to people affected by systemic racism but who may not have the language to describe it.”
Even the fact of UnheardThe existence of LadBible testifies to a major transformation that LadBible has undergone in recent years.
It has already released features such as “Cleavage Thursday” and “Bumday Monday” and has in its stable a new incarnation of UNILAD, a title which has previously published an article that ended with the phrase: “Uni Lad does not tolerate rape without saying ‘surprise’.” This article, which was published a decade ago under different editors, has been widely condemned. It was not the kind of media coverage that mainstream brands want to be associated with, or that Facebook and other sites of social media would like to see promoted. Funniest Home Videos, the best traditional media analogy at the time for LadBible would have been boys’ magazines such as FHM Where zoowhich have since ceased publication.
But the new LadBible AU seems to be exactly what brands want to be associated with, in part because of the 13 million audience it claims in Australia. Her audience is only 50-55% male, Summers says, despite Ladbible’s previous image and tends to be young. This demographic can be hard to find, which is why, in the UK, LadBible’s largest advertiser is Her Majesty’s Government. In Australia, these are the mega brands Amazon Prime Video, Subway and V Energy drinks.
“When we started, our content was pretty raw,” says Summers, who previously worked for The Guardian and has worked with LadBible for five years. “And that’s how we managed to attract a huge audience because it was so relevant for young people. But as we have evolved over the years, our business has become much more diverse, catering to such a wide audience. This scale comes with a responsibility.
LadBible is about to get even bigger. Summers is currently in New York working on expanding the business into the United States.
“Americans make up about 40% of our total audience,” says Summers. “That’s what we’re here for.”
LadBible isn’t the first digital publisher to shine on viral content. BuzzFeed, which rose to fame for its fun listicles in the early 2010s but later created a reputable but expensive news division, was valued at $1.7 billion in 2016. It’s now worth $560 ( $782 million) and made several of the rounds of deep cuts to its personnel, especially in news.
LadBible Group, on the other hand, hasn’t made comparable inroads into the expensive world of traditional journalism. The full LadBible bundle, which includes UNILAD, SPORTbible and other titles, is worth around £326.15 million ($578 million). It recorded £5.2million after-tax profit in the previous financial year on £54.5million of group revenue.
“We were lucky that [publishers such as BuzzFeed and Vice] went first and we were able to learn from their mistakes,” says Summers. It comes down to starting small and growing slowly based on revenue. It’s a prudent strategy, but the United States is a congested market. On the one hand, the American Funniest homemade videos is still on the air.
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